3 Essential Rotator Cuff Stretches for Throwing Athletes

April 8, 2013 | Andrew Sacks

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If you play an overhead sport like baseball or tennis, you are at an increased risk for a rotator cuff injury. Repetitive high levels of force can wreak havoc on the structure and tissues involved if they aren't properly cared for. (See the 6 Best Rotator Cuff Exercises.)

For optimal shoulder health throughout the season, you should perform rotator cuff stretches to maintain mobility. If your shoulders have a history of being cranky or tight, add these three rotator cuff stretches to your repertoire. Do two to three sets of each stretch on each arm.  (See also Keep Your Rotator Cuff Pain-Free.)

Sleeper Stretch

The sleeper stretch is one of the most popular stretches to improve internal shoulder rotation. When performed correctly, it lengthens the external rotators of the shoulder and relieves tightness in the posterior capsule.

Note: The Sleeper Stretch is not for everyone. You should skip it if you experience pain in the front of your shoulder, or if you are suffering from shoulder impingement.

  • Lie down on your side and place a rolled towel or pillow under your head for support
  • Depress your shoulders down and squeeze your shoulder blades together
  • Position your bottom arm to the side and bend your elbow to 90 degrees
  • Push your wrist toward the floor with your top arm; do not apply too much pressure
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds
Sleeper Stretch

Side-Lying, Cross-Body Stretch

This stretches the back of the shoulder. The setup is similar to the Sleeper Stretch, making it easy to do the two stretches back-to-back.

  • Follow the same setup as the Sleeper Stretch
  • Grasp your bottom elbow with your top hand and pull it up and across your body until you feel a stretch in the back of your shoulder
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds
Side Lying Stretch

Standing No Money

Most overhead athletes don't have issues with external rotation, because throwing improves this movement. However, it's important to maintain this during the off-season, or if you have suffered an injury.

Stretching into excessive external rotation is a bad for throwers, since it can create anterior instability. A better idea is the Standing No Money, which only takes your shoulders through an active range of motion. It improves mobility and strengthens your shoulders at the same time.

  • Stand with your back against a wall with your arms bent at a 90-degree angle
  • Engage your core
  • Externally rotate your arms as far as possible and hold for 30 seconds
  • Keep your elbows, head and butt against the wall


Andrew Sacks
- Andrew Sacks is a strength and conditioning coach from Baltimore, where he trains athletes at Next Level Sports Performance. He works with youth, high school,...
Andrew Sacks
- Andrew Sacks is a strength and conditioning coach from Baltimore, where he trains athletes at Next Level Sports Performance. He works with youth, high school,...
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